hunters to take over
Clifty Falls State Park
in annual deer reduction
MADISON, Ind. (November 2004) Most days of the
year, Clifty Falls State Park is open for the public to take a drive
or a stroll through and view the natural beauty and wildlife. The ecological
balance between plants and animals that makes the park so enjoyable,
however, is something that requires maintenance. This is why the park,
which normally does not allow hunters, closes its gates to the public
on four days of the year for a controlled deer hunt.
The hunt is not recreational but takes place in order to help reduce
or maintain the deer population in the park that could double in size
in as little as two years if not regulated.
Every parcel of land has a carrying capacity and when an animal
exceeds that capacity the population cannot sustain itself, said
Dick Davis, the parks naturalist. With no natural predators,
the animal eats itself out of house and home.
This years statewide deer reduction is scheduled for Nov. 15-16
and Nov. 29-30, and Clifty Falls is among the 17 state parks that will
participate. On these days, there is no public access to the park.
Indiana state parks first began deer population reduction in 1993 with
a one-day reduction at Brown County State Park. In 1994 the Indiana
General Assembly passed legislation requiring the director of the Indiana
Department of Natural Resources to order a hunt when a species of animal,
when left unregulated, would severely damage the ecosystem of the park.
The DNR has since adopted the scientific research model of Dr. George
Parker, a Purdue University professor of forest ecology, to measure
the damage to a parks ecosystem due to overpopulation of deer and to
determine a schedule for deer herd reductions. These reductions are
designed to allow for restoration to the natural balance to the park.
This hunt is a management action and the hunters are considered
volunteers to the state of Indiana who are making a contribution toward
sound resource management, Davis said.
Each year, the DNR takes applications from qualified hunters in Indiana
to participate in the herd reduction. Applications were collected through
September and placed into a lottery drawing held in October by the DNR
to determine which hunters would be among the 130 selected to hunt Clifty
Falls. Applicants are required to be Indiana residents and be at least
18 years of age. After a deer is killed, the hunter must take the animal
to the check station at the park office so its age, weight, and sex
can be recorded. The hunter must hold a valid resident hunting license
to take deer.
Safety is a top priority for the DNR, and because of this Clifty Falls
is one of the two state parks restricted to archery hunting due to its
urban location. It is also required that all shots be taken from an
elevated position, so that the hunter is shooting toward the ground
to avoid stray shots. In addition, archers who have completed the International
Bow-hunter Educations Program receive preference over those who have
not. These precautions seem to be effective; no injuries have ever resulted
from a hunt at Clifty Falls.
What has resulted is restoration of the vegetation throughout the grounds,
and in turn, a positive impact on every animal that makes the park its
home. According to Davis, the park is seeing the return of many spring
wildflowers and the trees and new growth that had become food in past
years are now able to live and grow.
The park itself is not the only area affected when the deer herds are
overpopulated. According to Andy Crozier, Conservation Officer with
the Indiana DNR, residents living near the boundaries of the park could
not even grow shrubs or flowers in their yards before the population
I would receive numerous calls from residents complaining about
the deer coming out into their yards and eating their gardens and bushes,
he said. I dont receive any complaints anymore. It benefits
both the park and the community.
For information visit: www.state.in.us/dnr.
For information about dates and times of park closings, call the Clifty
Falls State Park office at (812) 273-8885.
Oaks National Wildlife Refuge
Oaks is a deer hunters dream
annual hunting season
MADISON, Ind. (November 2004) Deer hunting helps maintain the
population and control the destruction of ecosystems due to overpopulation,
however, it is also a popular sport. In the 1980s, when the U.S. Army
operated the Jefferson Proving Ground, where what is now Big Oaks National
Wildlife Refuge, nobody hunted the land, and the deer population soared.
There is only so much vegetation that can grow in one area, and if there
are more deer than there is food, the deer, the vegetation and the entire
ecosystem within the park will suffer.
by Don Ward
weighing in on their big kill.
One way of monitoring deer is by looking at their
weight. At that time the deer were small, some were the size of a collie,
said Joe Robb, refuge manager at the 58,000-acre Big Oaks.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began managing the wildlife resources
of the land in 1996. In 2000, the service established the Big Oaks National
Wildlife Refuge, making it a part of the nations Wildlife Refuge
System, a set of lands and water set aside to be protected and managed
Part of protecting and managing the wildlife means controlling the population
of animals so that no one species becomes detrimental to the other living
things in the park. Big Oaks is one local wildlife area that accommodates
sportsman while at the same time accommodating its own need of maintaining
the deer population.
Each year, refuge officials coordinate with Indiana state officials
to establish how much hunting is necessary to maintain a healthy deer
population. There are state-drawn hunts and local-drawn lotteries that
determine who will be invited to hunt at Big Oaks. This year, the refuge
is holding 15 hunting days in October and November, including a youth
hunt on Nov. 5-6. The youth hunt at Big Oaks is a unique opportunity
because the Indiana State Parks deer reduction hunts (such as
the one at Clifty Falls State Park in Madison) do allow anyone under
age 18 to participate. The youth must have completed all of the state-required
safety regulations to be eligible and must have an adult guide. The
youth is the only one permitted to hunt on these days, however, both
the youth and the guide must attend a refuge safety briefing. Each hunting
day the refuge hosts up to 420 hunters, Robb said. Getting that number
of hunters is not a problem.
This is a wonderful place to hunt, Robb said. People
come from 20 states to hunt here, and the hotels in Madison fill up
as a result of the hunts.
One thing that attracts hunters to the Big Oaks is its issuing of the
Military Refuge Tag. This tag is issued in addition to the regular state
tags (each deer shot must be tagged as a way for state wildlife officials
to be able to regulate how many deer each hunter is allowed to shoot
by Don Ward
packing in their deer
for the ride home.
Using the Military Refuge Tag at the refuge to allows
hunters an extra deer not regularly permitted by the state. In addition,
while hunting at the refuge, hunters can shoot one buck (male deer)
that does not count against the single buck allowed by the state. Currently,
refuge officials are working on increasing the doe (female deer) population
in the park so that the population of does and bucks will be about even.
Right now, Robb said that the refuge holds about 60 percent bucks. Allowing
hunters an extra buck will help to even the population.
All of these special regulations are in place to aid the refuge in keeping
the deer population under control. Hunters harvest about 600-800 deer
each season, according to Robb, who said that the ecosystem in the refuge
benefits greatly as a result.
When there are too many deer, it degrades the habitat. The hunting
we allow has a positive impact on everything in the park, including
birds, reptiles, other amphibians, mammals and plants.
He added that there is no browse line (a visible line where the deer
have fed) anymore, and plants previously eaten back each year by the
deer now flourish and grow.
For more information about visiting or hunting at Big Oaks National
Wildlife Refuge, visit: http://midwest.fws.gov/bigoaks/index.htm
or call (812) 273-0783.
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